Are workplace wellness programmes worth it?

Are workplace wellness programmes worth it?

Are workplace wellness programmes worth it?

Popular workplace “wellness” programmes may not offer a big payoff for workers’ health or bosses’ bottom lines – at least in the short term, new research suggests.

In a study of one large US company, researchers found that a wellness programme led some workers to change their habits: Participants were more likely to say they were exercising and trying to manage their weight.

Better to temper expectations

At the 18-month mark, however, that hadn’t translated into health improvements, lower medical expenses or better job performance.

Experts said none of that means workplace wellness should be ditched.

“This study suggests employers might want to temper their expectations of the return on their investment, at least in the short run,” said lead researcher Dr Zirui Song. He’s an assistant professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

It’s hard to know, however, how relevant the findings are to any other given company.

“They looked at one programme, at one company, over an 18-month period,” noted Jean Marie Abraham, a professor of healthcare administration at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

She said the programme studied is “fairly representative” of what’s available, offering counselling on what she described as lifestyle management.

Not feasible for all

But, she said, wellness programmes vary from one company to another. Companies and their employees vary, too.

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